UAE. Close to 1,300 aircraft worth an estimated $345bn dollars are on order and pending delivery from Middle Eastern airlines, according to MEED’s latest industry report, Aviation and Airports 2016.
While Dubai’s Emirates Airline, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways lead the region in terms of the value of on-order planes, most of the smaller airlines have put in place restructuring programmes to enable them to contribute to the expansion of each state’s economy in view of lower oil income and increased urgency to diversify their economies away from oil.
Aircraft on order / pending delivery by country
Saudi Arabia: 50
*As of October 2016
Source: Middle East Aviation & Airports 2016
The massive investment is being made in anticipation of a surge in passenger traffic, along with more than $100bn-worth of airport projects that are currently underway and planned across the Middle East.
These projects are intended to address a capacity gap as airport passenger volumes across the Middle East has outstripped capacity by 11 per cent last year. With these, an additional capacity of 400 million passengers a year can be accommodated across the region’s airports over the next 10 to 20 years.
The new and expanded airports are expected to be completed between end of 2016 and 2020. These include the Muscat International, Midfield Terminal Complex (Abu Dhabi), King Abdulaziz International (Jeddah) and the new passenger terminal at Bahrain International.
The largest potential opportunities for contracting and sub-contracting companies are expected to come from the construction of the next phase of Al-Maktoum International in Dubai, the further expansion of Jeddah airport, Hamad International airport expansion, and the upgrade of airports in Iran.
Travel demand, as reflected by double-digit average annual growths in most airports’ passenger volumes since 2010, and the overall economic expansion programmes prior to the oil price decline have fuelled the rapid expansion in aircraft fleet and airport capacity. Going forward, the staging of global events such as the Dubai Expo 2020 and 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar are also expected to boost the region’s profile as a travel and tourism destination.
Threats on the horizon
However, despite sterling growth in recent years, there are early signs that the growth in the region’s aviation sector could potentially slow down as the global economy slows and drags travel demand along with it. Other threats include the political instability in many parts of the Middle East region, lack of state funding for future projects, as well as limited airspace allocation.
These threats require adjustment in policies as well as a concerted effort between government and private stakeholders across the region.